You have to hand it to the Indian cricket board. The BCCI has done such a fantastic job of marketing itself and Indian cricket — helped no doubt by we in the media — that the India cricket team brand is still the country’s major bestseller. Even after almost three months of winning nothing, in any format.
Did we make the Champions Trophy semifinals? No. Did any Indian Premier League team make it to the Champions League semifinal? Nope. Did we beat Australia (as we thought we would after all the drama about becoming the No. 1 team in the world for a few precious hours)? Nyet.
The Aussies, hit by back injuries, ankle injuries, hamstring injuries, groin injuries and probably some more we can’t remember, cobbled together a standing XI and hobbled their way to an eventually easy series win.
Do we have any chance of beating Sri Lanka in the ongoing Ahmedabad Test? Hell, no!
Of course, we did have a couple of things to celebrate. Sachin Tendulkar’s longevity, his scintillating 175 at Hyderabad and Rahul Dravid’s classic in the ongoing Test — outshone of course by Mahela Jayawardene racking up his sixth double ton, but we Indians like rooting for the underdog.
So, helpful as we are, we’d like to suggest five readymade excuses for the BCCI’s PR machinery.
1. We mustn’t read too much into a potential hammering by Sri Lanka. So what if we are the richest board and Sri Lanka Cricket was looking for a loan from us some time ago? Despite the perception that we are almost No. 1, they are ranked above us in the Test rankings, so this is not unexpected.
2. We unceremoniously sacked our bowling coach, so the bowlers can’t be blamed for their miserable figures.
3. We (also unceremoniously) sacked our fielding coach, so we can’t really help the fielding either (during the ODIs)
4. What do you expect on Indian wickets? We have short memories, so we don’t remember Ishant and Zaheer bowling fantastically in back to back Test series a year ago on Indian wickets before we ground our bowlers into the dust through non-stop games. And of course, the fact that we provide dead, ‘kill-the-bowlers’ wickets has nothing to do with anything. So what if Test cricket dies?
5. And finally, in between raking in the moolah for the IPL’s theatrical rights and making sure we get astronomical sums for the team and kit sponsors (both the Sahara and Nike deals end next year), where is the time for cricket, development, planning wickets or anything else? Just show us the money.